An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)

Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.

 The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night.  The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.

Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.

Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).
Roger Federer and a Quokka.
If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

Breath-taking nature views of Australia

When talking about Australia, the first thing that comes into mind is… Kangaroo! Well, yes, kangaroo, but what got me most excited before coming here was the amazing weather and nature. That was why I arrived ten days before the beginning of the first study week, and went on a road trip with my friend.


It was a trip along the east coast of Australia, starting from Canberra and ending in Gold Coast. We rented a car from Hertz, which seemed to be the only company leasing cars to younger drivers. Price is quite fair, and fuel in Australia is cheap. So overall, driving is a more economic (and surely more fun) way to travel than flying.


One of the great things about the road trip is that you get to appreciate the various landscapes of this huge continent. When we started from Canberra, the landscape was more of a dry one. Along the road was dry and yellow grassland, dotted by low, often strange shaped trees and bushes. I reckon that was because Canberra does not have coast. As we got near Sydney, the plant cover started to become denser. Above half way from Sydney to Gold Coast, landscape turned even greener. The veg cover made the sunset beautiful, like this…





We went to many famous tourist attractions during that trip and certainly saw many awesome views. The first being the famous Bondi beach in Sydney. A bit of a disappointment – it was not as nice as people say. It is a bit over-crowded: we went there on Tuesday and still, the beach was full of people. However, if you go along the beach, and turn to the cliff beside it, there was something different.


However, what truly amazed me was not any of these places. One night, as we drove from Sydney to Gold Coast, we pulled over to take a rest. And when we looked up to the sky, we saw the ‘milky way’. You can see the belt so clearly. There was no word to describe the scene, as human seemed so insignificant compared to those mysterious lights, which have been there for millions of centuries. I managed to take a photo, but it did even touch the true glory of what I saw in person. I wish I had a better camera. (and a tripod)


Gold coast certainly lived up to its name. Premium beach can be found anywhere. If you are a surfer, you do not want to miss this city. One funny thing about Gold Coast: it sits on the border between Queensland state and New South Wales state. These two states have different day light saving time systems. That means, Queensland, despite having the same longitude as NSW, it is one hour behind NSW. So don’t forget to check you phone/watch to adjust for that. Our hotel was right on the border. More specifically, the border lies between my bed and the night table. Every night I left my phone to charge on night table, it woke me up next morning at NSW time. And when I went downstairs to have breakfast, the clock on my phone jumped back one hour, showing Queensland time. I lost quite a few hours of sleep there…

This will be the first of three blogs showing you guys how beautiful Australian nature is. See you next blog.


— Hanqin


By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

Ok so I may have been putting off writing this blog for as long as possible because it’s actually so sad that my Australian adventure is officially over. But, I’m back in England and over the jet lag (good luck with that to any future travellers), and feel like now is as good a time as ever to document the highs of my study abroad, in the best country in the world (not lying).

Sunset over Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra

Continue reading “Reflections.”

ANU Accommodation Options.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

So before I came to Canberra I had pretty much no idea where I should apply to stay, which college would be best for me, or whether I should even stay in college at all. I kinda wish I had a little more guidance when applying for residence just because at the time I felt like I had literally picked a random place out a hat. Luckily for me I ended up loving where I picked but I figured I’d write a little guide so that anyone else going to ANU wouldn’t feel so baffled.

ANU Campus

Continue reading “ANU Accommodation Options.”

Exams At ANU.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

At a time when most of my friends back home have already finished their exams and summer celebrations are well underway, Canberra is 1 degree centigrade and I only have 1/3rd of  my exams out the way. Even so, as I sit in the study room at 9am, trying to whip up the academic motivation I lost as soon as I stepped on the plane in February, I’m keen to explain that exams here at ANU really aren’t so bad. A productive form of revision procrastination if I do say so myself…

Continue reading “Exams At ANU.”

‘O-Week’ at ANU.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

Day 17 of my new adventure and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked “why ANU?” or “why Canberra?”. To begin with, the question was actually quite hard to answer, and I did admit several times that ANU wasn’t actually at the top of my list. But now, after spending ‘O-week’ (Fresher’s) and a week of classes at my new Uni, I can seriously say I wouldn’t chose anywhere different given the choice. This is a blog for those of you who like me, don’t end up with your preferred university for study abroad, and a reassurance that despite the cliché, everything really does happen for a reason.

Continue reading “‘O-Week’ at ANU.”

6. Brekkie and Breakfast

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

“Where is the sun?”, I screamed inside my head whenwalking out of the plane at Manchester airport. It took me a few minutes before accepting the fact that I was back in Manchester, the driest place on earth. Having lived in few different places, spending a few months in a new country is not new to me. However, each time I was shocked to see how my body and mind unconsciously adapted to the environment without noticing. Since Australia and the UK share the same language and Australian culture has largely been influenced by British settlers arriving in 1788, this hugely minimised the degree of culture shock I experienced. Personally, I wouldn’t say I have suffered from any culture shock, but it took me a while to respond to ‘Good day’ (Australian way of saying hello) naturally and get used to the Aussie accent. On my return to Manchester, I continued using words like ‘heaps’ (a lot) and ‘brekkie’ (breakfast) until having received a fair amount of odd looks.

Compared to Canberra, Manchester is more dynamic. I love them both. I missed the natural beauty of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin by the side of my campus, the Black Mountain at the back of my hall and its climate. I like the excitement and convenience Manchester has to offer. I was surrounded by people in Canberra most of the time and I have a more independent life in Manchester. I took a few weeks to get used to the quietness in my flat.

Spending time in another prestigious university has given me motivation to work harder and inspired me to try out new things. I have become a more flexible and adaptable person than ever. I have learnt to see and think in different perspective, to challenge my comfort zone and to stay calm in unexpected situations.

This is my final blog about my study abroad experience in Australia. I very much appreciate this opportunity offered by the University and the International Programmes Office. I absolutely understand studying abroad may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of doing it. The preparation and application process maybe long and time-consuming, but it definitely worth it!

5. Reflection on my time at Australian National University (ANU)

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Ummm, I have no idea where to start. It has been a crazy, joyful and adventurous six months. So much has been learnt and so many bonds have been made.

From the moment I landed in this wonderful, sunny land to the time I had to start packing and say farewell to my friends and the animals (spiders not included) around my hall, not even one second did I halt and think. Now, sitting in front of my laptop (equivalent to a smartwatch in this generation), memories start to sink in and I can’t help but giggle. Reflecting on my study abroad journey helps me think critically about what I have done and why, and learn self-evaluation.


I studied abroad in the second semester of my second year. Because of the complexity of course matching, I had to take two second year and two third year courses at ANU. The third year courses were demanding and I had underestimated them at the start of semester. I would have put more time in studying to prevent pulling endless all-nighters. It is important to experience life as much as possible. But in the end,  a good work-life balance will lead to success.


I was fortunate to be allocated in one of the most inclusive, welcoming and fun halls on campus. Sharing a big kitchen with other four hundred something residents gave me opportunities to social with so many different people. We spent day and night in there, laughing and cooking together. There were all kind of activities organised by the hall committee. I had tried out new sports and went to basketball training (no fear being the shortest player in the team). Everyone was very supportive and I had acquired some new skills and explored a different side of myself. More importantly, I have made some life-long friends.

I would definitely study abroad again if there is a chance!

4. End of Semester Trip

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Together with another five exchange students, we went camping along the Great Ocean Road and the outback. Looking at the photos, I can’t help but  start planning my next camping trip!



Great Ocean Road


Our camper van (car)

Great Ocean Road and Outback


Koala spotting
Great Ocean Road. Heaven is opening.
Big John, our camper van
West MacDonnell Range
Manchester ‘On the road’
West MacDonnell Range
West Macdonnell Range
Campsite. About to start a fire




3. Academic Difference (ANU vs. UoM)

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Studying abroad is all about LEARNING: new culture, new knowledge, new skills, new people and new stories. Today let’s talk about the academic differences between Australian National University in Canberra and The University of Manchester. Talking from experience, I found it extremely helpful to know the differences before starting my semester abroad. (For those who haven’t read my introduction, I did Actuarial Science and Mathematics so the differences I am about to talk about may vary from other courses.)

Academic Differences The University of Manchester(UoM) Australian National University (ANU)
Course units per semester(Full credit) 6 4
Lecture style In lecture hall or theatre Same
Lecture Recording Some lectures are recorded, some are not. All of them are recorded
Assignment Weekly assignments are not marked after first year The weekly assignments marks make up part of the final grade for many courses
Tutorial Weekly tutorial Same
Exam 2 hours exam 3 hours exam(One of the Statistics exam I had is an open book exam which I have never had in UoM)

Personally I am not a big fan of 3-hour exam, it is very draining and one of the papers I did was worth 180 marks. The pressure was no joke. However it has turned me into a much more flexible and adaptable learner. It is vital that you know the assessment method of your chosen modules. Figure out what learning style best suits you and pick the modules with your preferred assessment method. Like The University of Manchester, Australian National University offers a wide variety of different units and the learning environment and facilities at ANU are excellent.

O-Week and first week of lectures

By Tom Collins (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia).

SAM_6423On my first morning at Burton and Garran Hall, I’m not gonna lie, I was scared to leave my room. It was the first time I realised I was actually on the other side of the world and had no one. When I finally did leave my room, I  went over to the main block and we were all divided into groups of about fifteen and were taken on a tour of the city centre, which they call ‘civic’ in the same way we’d call it ‘town’. Each group bought food and cooked together and everyone shared the food. It’s a really good idea and it was from this that I started to make friends. It was so easy in the end!

Purple Haze

During the week there were loads of events including a drag night (knocking on a random girl’s room and asking if I could borrow a dress was something I didn’t expect to do). There was also a toga party, a murder mystery night and finally a music festival, a bit like ANU’s version of Pangea. I only knew one of the acts, but the Australians seemed to know who the others were and it was really good! Of course these nights always ended up with us going out. Canberra’s nightlife, unsurprisingly, has nothing on Manchester.

Market Day (Freshers fair)

The biggest difference between O week and freshers’, however, was the amount of events that occurred in the day as opposed to just at night. There was a freshers’ fair just like in Manchester, but throughout the week there was also a trip to the local swimming pool, a water fight with another hall and lots of BBQ’S! The best thing about B & G is that you get fed during O week so there’s no need to buy your own food.

Purple Haze

My advice would be to get involved as much as you can. No one here has any desire to be cool, and therefore everyone gets involved and judges a lot less. This all creates a really good ‘college spirit’, which is really nice to be part of as it is so different to back home. I probably met more people in my first week at B & G than I did in my whole first year in Manchester. The University of Manchester and all universities in the UK could learn a lot from the college system here at the ANU.

The following week was the first week of lectures. In this week I sat in on several different courses to get a feel for them. I went to two lectures which were at least third year subjects, and I knew straight away they were too difficult for me. I then met with the exchange advisor at ANU and finalised my choices. I ended up taking Foundations of Australian Law, Australian Public Law, Corporations Law and Succession Law. I’d definitely recommend sitting in on a few courses before committing yourself, it really is the only way you can properly understand whether they are suitable.

My first impressions were that the lectures were very similar to back home. One difference was that our timetable is not generated for us like in Manchester. You have to go onto a timetable builder and click on your courses to build it yourself. I also had to get used to using Wattle, which is the ANU’s equivalent of MyManchester. It is very similar however and was not a problem. Academic differences are something I’ll talk about more when I’m more familiar with the system.

An Aussie, a Brit and a Canadian (met on the first day).

Overall, O-week was amazing. If you are going on exchange I can say with almost certainty that you’ll make friends, so there’s nothing to worry about on that front. That’s speaking from my experience at the ANU anyway!
Get involved, or as Aussies would say, ‘get around it’!